My Personal Devotions: Mark 6

Mark 6:1-13

Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. 2 The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” 3 Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

 4 Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” 5 And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

   Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. 7 And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. 8 He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick—no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. 9He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.

 10 “Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. 11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

 12 So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. 13 And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

My Thoughts:

  1. People underestimated Jesus, some will underestimate me as well (v. 1-2)
  2. Proximity to life change does not equal personal life change (v. 4).
  3. My faithlessness limits God’s willingness to work through me (v. 5).
  4. Jesus was consistent with what he taught (compare v. 8-9 to Luke 12:22-31).
  5. Don’t be discouraged by the people who won’t listen to me (v. 11).
  6. God will make my successful in everything He has called me to (v. 12-13).

Blessings,

John

Preaching – part 2

Expository vs. Topical Preaching

This is one of the most frustrating debates to listen to. Frankly, I heard this argument so much in Bible college that I almost don’t want to blog about it for sheer annoyance sake. However it fits into this subject of preaching and deserves addressing. Allow me first to provide appropriate definitions:

Expository preaching: A format of preaching where one Scripture text is the primary context of the message. All points are derived from this text and, the message typically flows in the order of the passage.

Topical preaching: A format of preaching where the preacher selects a topic and builds his message around the subject with supporting Scripture on the subject. The points are derived from the topic as oppose to Scripture, but Scripture is typically used just as much.

Where I came from, expository preaching was treated as “Biblical preaching” as opposed to topical preaching which was only for “itching ears and people-pleasing.”

So which do I prefer now? Both. I am a preacher. Preachers are responsible for feeding their people what they need to be fed. Sometimes that is best done by breaking down a passage of Scripture verse by verse. At other times, people need to hear a biblical message on the topic of finances, relationships, dealing with adversity, trusting God, forgiving, or any number of thousands of other topics addressed in the Bible.

Jesus almost always preached topical messages. A topical message takes on average 3 times as long to prepare as an expository message. Both are tools that a well-equipped preacher draws from at the appropriate times.

And these are not the only tools to preaching. Some messages flow like a list of points and passages (Be-Attitudes). Others are narrative and tell a story (like Jesus did with parables). Others are interactive. Regardless, a good preacher knows that the word is the final source of authority and that each message should be designed to hit a specific audience. Topical preaching is not evil. Expository preaching is not the best or only way to to preach.

For me, I typically preach series that are topical in nature, but each message in that series is often an expository message. But I do preach expository series. And I also preach topical messages as well as other formats of delivering God’s word.

As preachers we need to be Biblical and yet creative in the way we communicate. We preach for impact. We preach for life change. Let’s use the right tools for the right job.

Blessings,

John

Preaching – part 1

Preaching – part 1

I want to share over the next several blog posts on the subject of preaching. As the pastor of our Saturday night service I preach every week, and frequently on Sunday mornings as well. This is by no means the end-all discussion on the subject, just a few thoughts I have as it regards to how God leads me and what I’ve experienced in 6 years in full time pastoral leadership. And to be clear, I don’t think for a second that I have “arrived” and possess all the answers on this subject. But whether you are a preacher with significantly more experience, a Bible college student preparing for ministry, a member/regular attender at your church, etc. I hope these thoughts can be encouraging and insightful to you.

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread to the hungry. It is the same with My word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” Isaiah 55:10,11

It’s amazing how different some messages feel from others when you get done preaching:

Some messages feel great! People are getting saved, others are coming back to Jesus, and the feeling is electric. The Spirit of God is so powerful and obvious that it seems like you could have read a Dr. Seuss book and people still would have gotten saved. When the service is over you feel like running down the middle aisle and spiking your Bible in a victory dance. Ok, I’m exaggerating… a little. But every preacher hopes to feel God move in such a way, and to get to see immediate results from the preaching of the word.

Other messages feel tough. There is no great awakening taking place tonight. No mind-blowing stats to share at staff meeting this week. You still preached the Word, but it was difficult and you walk away wondering if it made any difference at all for anyone.

According to God in Isaiah 55, it did. Because His word is never ineffective. It always does what He sends it out to do. Yes, as church leaders we are suppose to “prove ourselves unashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” But God takes full responsibility for the results of sending His word out. Just as the rain waters the earth and returns to the heavens, when God’s word falls on people, it brings fruit that will return to Him.

Knowing this is extremely liberating and empowering to me as a pastor. One one hand, God promises the results when His word is preached. He has this under control. I need to give my best efforts, after all this is my calling from God. But in the end, He gets the responsibility and the credit for what happens when His word is preached.

But it’s also empowering because if God promises the results He desires, then I can boldly stand and preach because it isn’t ultimately up to me anyway. My faith is not in my ability to preach it, but in the power of the word. I can preach in confidence because I know my source is reliable.

Yes, there is much more to preaching than simply quoting God’s word. More on that later. But in the end, His word is the only thing that has the power to speak to the heart and effect change in someone’s life. Our job as preachers is to present that word clear, and compellingly to the audience God brings us.

Blessings,

John

Can you see it?

Can you see it?

Have you ever seen one of those “Magic Eye” pictures? They look like a bunch of textures and colors but seem to otherwise have no rhymn or reason to them. It looks kind of like a big mess on the surface. Once you’ve learned to see “into” the picture you figure out how it works and you can see that there is a design to the mess all along. Here, try this one. Different people have different ways of adjusting their eyes to see it, but it all boils down to depth perseption. Try to look about 3 feet past the screen:

If you can see a shark, then you figured it out! Now right now some of you are mad, cause you’ve tried but you can never make these things work for you. You can’t seem to find the trick to seeing what everyone else is seeing.

God’s word brings my life into focus. On the surface, my life is full of textures and colors and looks like some kind of big abstract mess. But through God’s Word I can see that “All thing work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” God’s Word gives me the advantage to see things from a different perspective, God’s perspective. And only then can I truly embrace the circumstances that God brings my way that look like a big mess on the surface level. Hidden inside all of my pain, failures, disappointments, hopes, dreams, and ambitions, is a masterpiece that is breath-taking, but only from the proper vantage point.

Are you getting frustrated because you haven’t seen anything of “masterpiece” quality in your life? Are your current predicaments making you think that your life is a big mess? Then spend some regular time in God’s Word and learn to see things from a better perspective.

The masterpiece that God is putting together in your life, has been there all along. You just have to learn to see it from His perspective.

Blessings,

John

B90X

B90X

Ok, I’m totally blaming my friend and fellow pastor, Jason Smith, for getting me to do this… For some reason, I decided that I wasn’t busy enough between ministry, family, and maintaining my own sanity, and I have now begun a Bible reading plan that Jason and I (as well as several others) are fondly reffering to as “B90X”. What is that, you ask? We’re challenging each other, and holding one another accountable, to reading through the entire Bible… in 90 days. Now I’ve attempted some big tasks before, and I’ve read through the Bible multiple times… but this is intense! For one, Jason cheated! He began on New Year’s Day, a Saturday, which means I wasn’t going to get the first day’s reading knocked out until Sunday afternoon since I was elbow-deep in getting ready for a new night, series, and year for The Awakening. But I got caught up (2 days later, but who’s counting) and have been extremely blessed by God’s Word thus far in the reading plan.

I almost didn’t share this on the blog, mostly because I did’t want any of our readers thinking I was trying to flex my “I’m awesome” muscles, and coming off as proud or conceited. But I decided to go ahead with sharing about this experience for 3 reasons:

  1. It’s a lot easier to stay motivated when I have thousands  of viewer’s following my progress. Ok,… so maybe dozens, not thousands, but whatever.
  2. I hope this experience will challenge many of you to get into the Word in 2011, and possibly begin a reading plan of your own. Heck, maybe some of you are real Bible-reading juggernauts and will read through it in 60 days.
  3. God has already began overwhelming me with things from His Word in the past 4 days, that I feel compelled to share with you.So I’ll keep the updates down to a weekly basis.

If you are interested in beginning a Bible reading plan, I strongly urge you to go to youversion.com, create a free account, and select a reading plan. You can do anything from through the Bible in a year, 90 days, New Testament in 30 days, and on and on… some of them are pretty intense and require about an hour a day worth of reading, some are easy to follow and will simply keep you honest about staying in the Bible in 2011. I’ve found out that, so far, if I read for one hour, I can typically get through all the reading I need to, to stay on track. And that was while playing catch-up for 2 days. You can read through the entire Bible in one year by reading 4 chapters daily. That equates to about 15 minutes worth of reading for the average 8th grader.

Also, get someone to do a plan with you. Strength in numbers! And if you and your girlfriend want to go through a reading plan together, have other people join you.

I’ll post later about what God’s been doing to me so far in this reading, but go ahead and get started on your own reading plan. Feel free to use the comments on this post to ask questions about reading the Bible, or following a reading plan, or how God has lead you to get into His Word in the new year. Make 2011 different on purpose.

Blessings,

John